Gardening with George: The Cotswolds

Hello garden lovers and greetings from The Cotswolds!

Leaving The Lake District behind, we have now taken up residence at stately Abbey House in Malmesbury. The region is famous for its honey coloured stone buildings, thatched cottages, rolling green hills, quaint villages and gorgeous gardens and we certainly enjoyed all that was on offer.

Abbey House has a long history stretching back over a thousand years. The current house dates from the 16th century and King Henry VIII is said to have frequented the property, no doubt planning the demise of you know who, so I’m bolting the bedroom door – things really do go bump in the night!

I have visited the fabulous gardens at Abbey House before and struck up a ‘garden visitors’ friendship with owner and creator, Ian Pollard. Ian and wife Barbara both shared a passion for ‘naturism’ and introduced Clothes Optional Days at the gardens and became famous as The Naked Gardeners! Conversations with Ian were conducted in the garden with him wielding a pair of secateurs … and not much else! Shame we weren’t there a week earlier to celebrate World Naked Gardening Day – I can hear the ladies screaming at the thought!

We enjoyed a morning at nearby Tetbury, home to a magnificent 17th century Market House, over 20 antique shops and the fabulous Highgrove shop, selling merchandise approved of by Prince Charles whose home Highgrove House is only a short distance away.

A Sunday drive took in the glorious rolling hills and patchwork of fields, sheep and cattle grazing and families picnicking. We stumbled across a traditional village fete (think Father Brown and Midsomer Murders) and enjoyed listening to the brass band playing on the green, browsing the stalls (I bought a dashing squires cap) and took tea and scones by the church gate.

Other notable garden visits included Hidcote Manor, perhaps England’s most famous and influential garden, and was of my favourites. This Arts and Crafts creation is a series of ‘rooms’, each with its own character and planted for year-round colour and interest.

Rodmarton Manor, another supreme example of an arts and crafts house and garden, has a warm inviting feel and I loved the use of old troughs for alpines, moss covered staddle stones as features and well clipped topiary for dramatic effect.

What better way to wrap up our holiday than to take a traditional high tea at Barnsley House, the iconic garden of the late Rosemary Verey. Following dainty cakes and lashings of clotted cream, we enjoyed the tulip display, formal vegetable garden, laburnum walk and a laze in the afternoon sun!